A vacant church building was transformed into the foyer of a concert hall, preserving the landmark structure as part of the cityscape and creating a new point of reference for residents.

The former St. Mary’s church is a brick-built, neo-Gothic, three aisled hall church. Owing to its size and central location, it holds special importance for the urban development of Bochum’s city center. After it was deconsecrated in the year 2002, it increasingly showed signs of dilapidation. Many citizens voiced their strong interest in a continued use of the church building and the city of Bochum also made the case for its preservation, even though the responsible diocese had already announced its decision to demolish the structure. Eventually, in 2011, an agreement was reached to construct a new music center on the site for the Bochum Symphony Orchestra and for the municipal school of music. Instead of tearing down the old church, it was integrated into the plans. More than 40 percent of the construction costs – totalling around 38 million euros – were raised through donations, including thousands of small donations from dedicated cizitens.

The new Music Forum is composed of three structures: the two side extensions and the converted church that is at the center of the ensemble and now serves as its lobby. To the south, a large concert hall has been added, while to the north, a small auditorium for various purposes adjoins the former church. In its height, the concert hall – reflecting its prominent role – rises above the other new structures, yet without exceeding the eaves of the church roof. In their width, the dimensions of both new halls correspond to the church’s nave. Thus, the three structures merge into a lofty urban complex. Only the church tower and the choir are not in alignment with the ensemble and protrude beyond it. While the church was previously accessed via its tower to the west, the main entrance is now located on the opposite side in the choir which faces the city center.

Both in terms of urban development and architectural design, the old church and the add-ons converge in a dynamic interplay. The facades of the new auditoriums refer to the stone structure of the church, but, in contrast to its drak bricks, they boast a light-coloured clinker brick that unites various hues of red. For the most part, the exterior of the church was maintained in its original condition. However, the interior had been badly affected not least by the different interim uses of the building and therefore required more radical alterations. Nevertheless, it still contains traces of the building’s history such as the old church bell – whose ringing nowadays indicates intervals – and two sgraffiti on the shielding walls of the side altars that testify to the sacred art of the post-war era. The choir windows by Heinrich Wilthelm were believed to have gone missing when the church was closed down, but they were rediscovered in a neighbouring house by mere coincidence and have been restored to their former splendor. By contrast, substantial changes

were made to the church floor, which together with the new gallery was finished in terrazzo, and to the wood-panelled ceiling from the post-war reconstruction period.

The light-reflecting areas of the ceiling are part of the whole lighting concept for the church lobby: the light that is shone upwards from the lamps positioned at the cloumns’ capitals is in turn directly reflecetd back from above into the lobby, creating a festive atmosphere. The resulting rhombus-shaped pattern on the ceiling as well as the design of the church’s side windows were inspired by the interior of the concert hall. They establish a formal connection between the church lobby and the concert hall, while the access areas create a spatial connection, forming links between the nave of the church and the two adjoining auditoriums. Visitors who arrive in the lobby can spread out into the different access areas leading to the concert hall and the multi-purpose hall. Although these areas serve functional purposes and are of minor architectural importance, the sophisticated interplay between the existing building and the new extensions is a special experience: it is here that supposed opposites such as “inside and outside” or “old and new” pervade each other and thereby give rise to a new architectural quality.

source: bez + kock architekten